Cities have always developed according to the population and activities present, according to the principles of proximity and efficiency in the use of spaces: urban quality has never been separated from the proximity between residence, activities and services. Only since the post-war period, thanks to innovation in private transportation, the non-urban region, disconnected from the city centre, has become attractive for settlement functions: at the origin of the spread of urbanisation there is the increased freedom of movement of people and goods, which has made the city indifferent from the agricultural region in terms of supplies, and turned the latter into a land of conquest for low-cost and low-quality urban occupations. All this while in the countryside the industrialisation of agriculture produced the exodus of the population dependent on this activity. This was accompanied by a decline in interest in the historic centres and rural villages, where phenomena of dilapidation and abandonment have become rampant, with immense environmental and social costs: the escalation of hydrogeological instability has been associated with the loss of strategic functions of agricultural land; peripheries and suburbs raised without identity have become places of poor services, insecure and precarious; the historic centres have been stripped of the functions that ensured their liveliness; the greater distance of the displacements has imposed a growing recourse to increasingly congested motorised forms of mobility.
Stopping soil consumption means returning to designing the city from within, restoring the flow of investments necessary for its regeneration and redevelopment, adapting the built heritage to emerging needs, starting from energy efficiency and prevention of seismic and hydrogeological risk. But at the point where we are today, we also need something else: we need to regenerate the functions compromised by the excessive growth of artificial surfaces, restoring the permeability of the soils, transforming interstitial spaces into green areas, restoring spaces to the pedestrian and creating social areas.
In the rural area, the action of regional protection must be accompanied by the restoration of the ecological functions of the soil, and rethinking the settlement in relation to agricultural activity as economic and social protection, and not as a mere generator of commodities for the agri-food market.
These are immense challenges, increasingly recognised, but still not supported by effective strategies.